What two different processes were followed by the priests in the ancient sanctuary as they provided "atonement" for sin? (1) Lev. 4:5-7, 16-18, 20; (2) Lev. 4:25, 26, 30, 31; 6:24-30.
In the case of sin offerings for a priest and for the whole congregation, the blood of the sacrifices was sprinkled in the Holy Place, before the veil and on the horns of the altar of incense. In the case of the sin offerings for a ruler and a common person, the blood of the sacrifice was sprinkled on the horns of the altar of burnt offering in the court, and some of the flesh was cooked and eaten in the court of the sanctuary.
The two services symbolized the same spiritual truth; namely, that the sins of repentant sinners were transferred via the priest to the sanctuary. (See Exod. 28:38; Lev. 10: 16-18; Num. 18:1, 23.) In both services, the officiating priest carried the iniquity of the penitent sinner into the Holy Place. In the one case, the priest sprinkled the blood of the sacrifice in the Holy Place. In the other case, the priest ate some of the flesh and later ministered in the Holy Place. Thus, figuratively, the iniquity was transferred through the priest to the sanctuary. The sanctuary was cleansed on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:33).
What three main acts resulted in "atonement" for sinners who brought their sacrifices to the earthly sanctuary? Lev. 4:29, 30, 31.
"And he [the repenting sinner] shall lay his hand on the head of the sin offering, and kill the sin offering in the place of burnt offering" (Lev. 4:29, RSV). Confession and sacrifice preceded forgiveness. Then the priest sprinkled some of the blood of the sacrifice in the Holy Place or on the horns of the altar of burnt offering (Lev. 4:17, 18, 30). In the latter case, the priest ate some of the flesh of the sacrifice (Lev. 6:26). "And the priest shall make atonement for him, and he shall be forgiven" (Lev. 4:31, RSV). "Atonement," which made forgiveness a reality, was preceded by confession and included sacrifice and priestly mediation (sprinkling of blood). There was no forgiveness unless these three acts were performed. The offering of the animal sacrifice was not the only event that provided "atonement." "Atonement" was provided by sacrifice and the priest's sprinkling of blood. Thus the Old Testament establishes clearly that "atonement" is more than sacrifice: What Christ accomplishes after the cross is also important to our salvation.